Leatherback sea turtles are dying every day due to longline fishing in the Cocos Island National Park. These majestic, long-living animals take a long time to repopulate, so when their numbers decline, the impact is heavy and dramatic. Sharks and other wildlife are also routinely killed by the hundreds of thousands, and though the fishing practices that are resulting in these deaths are supposed to be illegal, fisherman continue to exploit these waters on a regular basis without consequence. They fish just on the outskirts of the waters, claiming ignorance or accident when their lines wander across protected waters and kill the animals swimming in them.
The fishermen don’t just leave their fishing lines right outside the twelve miles of protected area, either. They catch sharks to fin, which is the process of cutting off their fins for the delicacy known as shark soup, then throwing the animals back into the water to bleed to death and die. They catch mahi-mahi and other fish to sell as food sources. They set traps to catch whatever happens to wander into their nets—which include bycatch like turtles, sharks, and other wildlife. These animals simply die without fanfare, casualties of the fishing industry.
The Sea Turtle Restoration Project is fighting for an International Marine Protected Area to be mandated between Galapagos and the Cocos Island National Park. Protecting this “swimway” would allow all of these species to be protected under law, making it harder for fishermen to circumvent the current protections by fishing too near the protected area.
If you would like to speak on behalf of these sea creatures and ask for them to be further protected, please click here to find out more information about the Sea Turtle Restoration Project and write the president of Costa Rica to request further protection for these animals.